Tributes to pilot who died in Spitfire crash

flowers laid outside BBMF hanger at RAF Coningsby
Floral tributes outside the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight hangar at RAF Coningsby [Jake Zuckerman]

Tributes have been paid to a pilot who died when his Spitfire crashed in a field close to an RAF station at Coningsby on Saturday.

The RAF said a "comprehensive investigation" would take place after the plane came down off Langrick Road shortly before 13:20 BST.

The Prince and Princess of Wales said they were “incredibly sad” at the news, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was "awful".

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) told the BBC it expected to name the pilot later.

The World War Two-era plane belonged to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) based at RAF Coningsby.

The BBMF is a collection of wartime fighter and bomber aircraft that take part in air shows and memorial displays. Only a few dozen airworthy Spitfires remain, including six that belong to the BBMF.

William and Kate said on their Kensington Palace X account: “Our thoughts this evening are with the pilot’s loved ones, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and the wider RAF family.”

William was made Honorary Air Commandant Royal Air Force Coningsby in 2008 and handed the role over to Kate in 2023.

The prime minister also paid tribute, writing on social media: “Awful news to see the life of a serving RAF pilot cut short in this tragic event.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Deeply saddened by news from Lincolnshire. Thank you to the emergency services for their response.

"My thoughts are with the pilot’s family at this awful time.”

A spitfire based at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
A Spitfire based at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (file image) [Jo Makel]

Sue Crawford lives near the crash site and heard it from inside her house.

"It was almost like something dropping several times, like dustbin lids or dustbins being bashed.. we weren’t sure what we were hearing. But now we realise what it was,” she said.

Ms Crawford, who said she also lost somebody who was serving in the RAF a few years ago, has been to the scene to pay her respects.

"We realise as a family, how awful it is when something like this happens. Especially at this time and when they were involved with something so special like the VE [Victory in Europe] day celebrations.”

Another woman, who laid flowers at RAF Coningsby's perimeter fence, said: “We all love coming out here to watch the planes.

"We can see them all the time, so it will be a sad day for everybody."

The MoD said that the pilot’s family had been informed and asked that their privacy be respected "at this difficult time".

RAF enthusiasts had gathered to watch the planes on Saturday.

Speaking to the BBC, Sam Butler said: “They are well known to local people round here - they are treated like one big family from people who come here."

Andrew Backhouse, who had watched the Spitfire fly overhead, added: “He was one of the best of the fleet…. Our thoughts go out to him. I’m sure the truth will come out eventually as to what happened."

Lincolnshire Police said on Saturday it was a single-occupant aircraft and nobody else was involved.

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